Elizabeth Warren Is Marginalized Americans’ Best Hope
After last night’s debate, there’s no question she’d make the best president
Elizabeth Warren is working to prove herself. After a summer spent as a top-tier candidate, she’s had two losses in a row — in Iowa, she came in third behind the first-place tie between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg; in New Hampshire, she failed to get any delegates. Heading into the Nevada caucus, pundits all but wrote her off. Yet in last night’s Democratic debate, Warren came roaring back from oblivion with a fiery and widely applauded performance, which seems to indicate that she has no intention of quietly retreating from the arena. If her window is closing, then she seems determined to spend it making the best possible case for herself.
There’s obvious sexism at play in the pressure on Warren: namely, that women must constantly outperform expectations in order to be seen as competent. Warren’s third-place finish in Iowa is framed as an abject failure, yet people still take Joe Biden seriously after not just his disastrous finishes thus far but also his two prior failed presidential runs. Warren’s been solid; she needs to be spectacular. And last night she was on fire.
It’s also true that Warren has struggled to communicate her vision to the American public. Her competitors excel at evoking feelings: The righteous rage of Sanders, the good-old-days nostalgia of Biden, or the smooth, featureless, vaguely Obamanian pleasantness of Buttigieg all have their own appeal. Warren’s appeal has been in the nerdy details: wealth taxes, debt cancellation, off-the-cuff lectures on the constitutionality of the 18th-century carriage tax.
As such, it’s easy to dismiss Warren as a pencil-pusher or cast her as a soulless, managerial technocrat. Yet to do so would be to ignore her platform. Warren is not an ideologue. She is not a reassuring, white, male moderate promising a way back to the good old days. She is something far more complex, and potentially more transformative: An idealist who knows how to negotiate hard realities, a woman with the compassion to help, the intelligence to know what’s needed, and a deep understanding of how the office of the presidency can be used to deliver real benefits to the people. She is the hardest…